ADVERTISING
 
Monday, June 25   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Migration
Do Christians in your country have a Bible-based understanding of how migrants should be treated?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Gavin Matthews
1
 

Challenging the dominant narrative

“Here is a narrative which has been suppressed, here is a way of thinking that people are trying to drown out.” An interview with acclaimed Christian apologist Alister McGrath about his new book, Inventing the Universe.

SOLAS MAGAZINE AUTHOR Gavin Matthews 26 JANUARY 2016 15:25 h GMT+1
Author Alistair McGrath, book, 2016, new, inventing, Author Alistair McGrath.

Solas book editor Gavin Matthews talks to acclaimed Christian apologist Alister McGrath about his new book, Inventing the Universe.



 



Question. Tell us about Inventing the Universe. What is it about, why did you write it, and who is it for?



Answer. I wrote it because I wanted to explain the kind of journey I made from being an atheist who thought that science explained everything, to being a Christian who sees science as filling in parts of a picture, but who sees that there is a bigger picture as well. So I am writing this for anyone who is interested in the whole area of science and faith, particularly for scientists who are Christians who want to articulate the way they think more clearly, or for other people who just want to know that there are ways of holding science and faith together.



 



Q. Something of an intellectual autobiography as well, then?



A. Well, it is actually, yes! I’m saying that over a 40-year period, this is what I have come to think. This is what I have found my way towards, and if it helps others, I’ll be delighted!



 



Q. In the book you refer to the “warfare model” of Science versus Christianity. Why do you think that it has come to dominate the public discourse, and created such a problem for allowing Christian apologetics to gain a fair hearing?



A. I think it’s become a defining narrative or our culture. In part, because it has been propagated by a media who tend to just repeat what everyone’s said in the past. But more importantly, I think New Atheism has made this conflict narrative normative. I think that when you have very influential cultural figures supporting this, it’s quite difficult to break that stranglehold. And so we need to tell a different story and show that it makes more sense and that it’s much more exciting and attractive.



 



Q. How can we help people to hear Christian apologetics when their ‘plausibility structure’ has already told them that what we are saying is irrelevant?



A. Well what I think you need to do is to say, ‘look, here is a narrative which has been suppressed. Here is a way of thinking that people are trying to drown out’. They find it threatening, they find it challenging, and we need to say that they may not like it but they’ve got to hear it. They owe it to us to give us a hearing. I think that is something we need to say. CS Lewis, in his sermon The Weight of Glory, says that the dominant narrative in our culture is, ‘what you see is what you get’, and he says we have been ‘entranced’ by that, and we need to break that spell! And then he says the way of breaking a spell is by casting a better spell. What he means is presenting Christianity in an attractive, intelligible and an imaginatively compelling way, so that people stop and say, ‘we’ve got to think about this’. And we haven’t done that very well.



 



 



McGrath's latest book.

A. And the media is captured by the conflict model, which prevents people like you being heard at the public level, I suppose?



Q. It’s become the dominant media narrative. Charles Taylor’s book, The Secular Age, talks about how this happens. The difficulty is that once a narrative takes root, anyone who contradicts it is seen as being irrational. And Taylor says that once that mindset develops it’s very hard to break it. We’ve got to see ourselves as a counter-culture, a fifth-column, (or something like that). We are subversives who are challenging the dominant narrative, firstly because it’s wrong, but secondly, because we’re pressing a much more meaningful and exciting narrative.



 



Q. And your book is doing that?



A. Well, it’s a small step in that direction. Scholarship disproved this ‘conflict narrative’ a generation ago, but it’s taken ages for it to filter through to the media, who keep on repeating this old-fashioned, outdated approach.



 



Q. The book made a lot of scientific ideas accessible to a non-scientist like me, which I found exciting...



A. Well, it is written for a general audience, although I think scientists will particularly like it. I’ve just been debating a leading British humanist and physicist, and actually we had an incredibly civil and interesting conversation, because basically my science is right! That makes it much harder for atheists to write it off. If you do that, it gets a really good conversation underway.



 



Q. Interesting that you were speaking to a physicist. Is it harder to be a biologist who is a believer than a physicist? 



A. I think the answer is ‘yes’, and that’s partly because if you think of someone like Richard Dawkins, biology has been ‘weaponised’, whereas physics has not. If anything, physics is going in the other direction. Physics is generally supportive of a theistic worldview. Biology, precisely because (if it’s interpreted in a certain way) seems to be anti-theistic, it is being seized upon and made into the weapon of choice by those who want to continue the conflict narrative and offer an atheist apologetic.



 



Q. The idea of ‘multiple maps’ is important in the book. What are they?



A. What I mean is, science gives us one bit of the big picture - religion gives us another bit. We want to see the whole, and that means we need to recognise that science is going to tell us some things, but not others. You can approach things from only one perspective but that’s simply unacceptable because you leave out massive things like the issue of meaning, the issue of value and so on. The idea of ‘multiple maps’ ensures that you have a full palate of colours to do justice to the richness of the world, our experience and so on.



 



Q. So ‘multiple maps’ challenges Christian fundamentalists, too?



A. Absolutely! What they’re doing is locking themselves into a very small area and are not able to dialogue with anyone beyond that. The method I’m adopting is a wonderful platform for apologetics because it is saying, ‘look, we can talk and have a very good conversation’. Christianity has a marvellous contribution to make, it cannot be ridiculed, it cannot be ignored; there is something very significant here which needs to be heard.



 



Q. If ‘multiple maps’ are an important idea in the book, ‘scientism’ seems to be the major target. What do you mean by ‘scientism’?



A. Scientism is a non-scientific viewpoint which says that science answers all meaningful questions. So, science tells us what the meaning of life is, it tells us what is good and what is bad. Sam Harris, in his book The Moral Landscape, takes that line. My point is simply that this is an abuse of science! Science is science, you’ve got to make sure that you respect it, not convert it into something else. When science is done properly it has limits, and that is the best way of preserving its identity, its integrity. I am protesting strongly against those scientists who exaggerate the explanatory capacity of science.



 



Q. So why does scientism persist?



A. It’s partly a power play because some scientists feel threatened by cultural developments which they see as marginalising themselves. But the real answer goes back to that conflict narrative. It sees intellectual history as a trajectory from the dark ages, to a modern, enlightenment period in which reason and science are the drivers of progress. Therefore, science is the guarantor of rationality and progress, and anything else, such as religion, is seen as backward and unhelpful. However, that is a worldview, not an empirical observation. That is the imposition of a worldview which science is being ‘weaponised’ to consolidate.



 



Q. You write books faster than I can read them. Where is your research taking you next?



A. I get excited by things and love writing about them! Well, the next big book is going to be about human nature. It is going to be looking at scientific, cultural, and philosophical insights, and argue that there is a big problem in the naive enlightenment view of humanity, which still dominates Western culture, but there’s a better way of looking at it. It will be very sympathetic towards traditional Christian ideas of ‘The Image of God’ and sin and so on. So it will be absolutely rigorous, but at the same time it will bring a perspective which often isn’t heard. There is a major discussion underway right now about human nature that is essential to many political, social, and religious debates. It will be published around Easter 2017.



 



Alister McGrath is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University, and Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford. He is the author of many academic and theological works, as well as the bestselling The Dawkins Delusion and his acclaimed CS Lewis - A Life.



Inventing the Universe, by Alister McGrath, is printed by Hodder and Stoughton and is available online.



This article was first published in Solas magazine. Solas is published quarterly in the U.K. Click here to learn more or subscribe.



 



 


 

 


1
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 

Antoine
05/07/2017
22:23 h
1
 
Secular media are not the only ones holding to the “conflict model”. A large part of the evangelical world does exactly the same, to the point it’s elaborating it’s own faith-friendly pseudo-science.
 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Challenging the dominant narrative
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
How can churches better support singles? How can churches better support singles?

Tina Tschage, on some areas in which other Christians can encourage singles.

 
The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines

The Kirk has begun official procedures to investigate the status and the role of the Westminster Confession of Faith within its denomination.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.